Topic: Advertising/PR

"working Dollars" Vs "non-working Dollars"

Posted by Anonymous on 250 Points

Do you have a resource that outlines "working" dollars versus "non-working" dollars with examples of the types of work that falls into each category? I can't seem to find a standard or industry-wide definition for these terms.

My loose (poor) understanding is that "working" dollars are the funds that go toward projects (media, production, creative, etc.) that have the ability to directly impact ROI. "Non-working" dollars are put toward overhead/opex which may be necessary to fuel an agency but don't directly impact ROI.

I am trying to define these terms for a client/agency relationship.

Thank you!
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  • Posted by Peter (henna gaijin) on Member
    I've never heard these terms used (though, of course, that doesn't mean that they aren't valid terms).
  • Posted by Jay Hamilton-Roth on Accepted
    This article ( defines the terms in the context of digital media advertising.
  • Posted by tADman on Accepted
    You are very close in your definitions, but there is one easy way to discern working versus non-working dollars. Working dollars are those that get applied to the most direct or closest point to your consumer. For example - Media. It does the work of delivering the message and creative you have produced. Non-working, are the pieces that get delivered by working dollars. Not just the overhead/general business expenses.

    In my opinion - it is not a good use of terms when talking about budgets from a marketing stand point. I would throw out the terms and talk to the budget breakdown by item. Working at an agency I might be a little biased as well.

    Working vs Non-Working Dollars is outdated and not specific.

    If your strategy is not sound, and the message you are delivering is not good or should I say "working" to gain the attention of the audience and incite action then it does not matter how much you spend, the ROI will be poor. So scrap the terms you have and re-define the question your client is trying to understand with concise listing of elements and their importance to the ROI. You can't plan, produce and make great advertising without having someone manage and address the accounting, HR etc needs. or, you will go out of business. It all goes together.

    Without a good strategy, you can't build a good plan. Without a good plan, you can't work it to achieve your goals. Without a definition of your target audience you can't figure out when, where, and how to talk with them. Without great ideas, you can't execute - headlines, images, direct response avenues or production of any kind. Without goals you can't set KPI's and measurement. And without the back of the house management of the business you can't provide all of the great creative and media management.

    A little long and theoretical - but my point is everything that goes into a marketing budget should be for the purpose of "working" and ultimately making the cash register ring. If your client wants to understand the difference behind their budget breakout on direct spend for marketing materials, production, placement and management versus generalized business expenses or fixed costs like accounting, shipping, copies etc then itemize the plan, show the general business expenses versus cost of production and execution and get rid of the terms that seem to confuse the issue.

    Not a resource per se', but permission to tell the client what they want, without using their "Terms".

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